Written by Derrick Bryson Taylor
Tropical Storms Marco and Laura continued to churn in the Caribbean on Saturday, prompting a wave of warnings and watches for several countries and leading the governor of Louisiana to declare a state of emergency.
Marco on Saturday was about 110 miles northwest of the western tip of Cuba, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday night.
“It’s looking pretty organized,” said Joel Cline, tropical program coordinator for the National Weather Service. “It’s expected to become a hurricane later today or tonight.”
Cline said it was possible that both storms would become hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico as early as Monday. He added that it would be “pretty unusual” and that the last time it happened was in 1933. The last time a hurricane and a tropical storm were both in the Gulf of Mexico was in 1959, he said.
Dennis Feltgen, meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center, on Friday quashed social media speculation that the storms would collide forming a single monster storm.
“They cannot merge,” he said. “They actually repel each other because of the rotations.”
Marco may strengthen over the next two days but begin to weaken by Monday or Tuesday, the center said. The storm was expected to produce from 1 to 4 inches of rain, with some isolated amounts of 6 inches, across the eastern portions of Mexico, forecasters said.
In response to Marco, the government of Cuba issued a tropical storm warning for the province of Pinar del Rio, the center said. A tropical storm warning was also in effect for Cancun to Dzilam, Mexico.
A hurricane watch was issued across parts of coastal Louisiana, including New Orleans, to the Mississippi-Alabama border.
“By late in the day on Monday, it should be very, very close to Louisiana, Texas coastlines and probably go down to a tropical storm at that time,” Cline said of Marco.
Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana on Saturday requested a federal emergency declaration from the White House, as he warned that Marco and Laura were forecast to affect the state in quick sequence. Edwards’ request came one day after he used his powers as governor to declare a state of emergency.
“In the past 24 hours, the tracks of these two storms have changed dramatically and in a way that is unfavorable for our state,” Edwards said. “This is unlike anything we have seen, with two hurricanes expected to impact our state nearly back to back.”
He warned that people might have to shelter in place for more than 72 hours and that it might be difficult to restore power between the two storms.
“I encourage everyone to begin their emergency preparations now, as some areas of the state may be impacted by two storms,” he said.
So far, 14 parishes have issued emergency declarations; five parishes are in the process of completing emergency declarations; and more are anticipated over the next day or two, Louisiana officials said.
Declaring a state of emergency allows the state to help local governments with their preparations, Edwards said. He advised Louisiana residents to include face masks and hand sanitizer in their emergency kits. “COVID-19 does not become less of a threat because of tropical weather,” he said.
On Saturday evening, Laura was about 25 miles southeast of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, according to the hurricane center.
The center of Laura was forecast to move near eastern Cuba by Sunday.
Cline said Laura was “disorganized.” As long as it’s moving over those islands, he said, “then no intensification is expected to happen.”
When Laura reaches the Gulf of Mexico, it may strengthen, Cline said.
This year’s hurricane season is expected to be one of the most active on record, the National Weather Service has said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this month updated its forecast for the remainder of this year’s season, estimating that by the time the hurricane season is over on Nov. 30, there will have been up to 25 named storms.
Seven to 11 of the named storms could become hurricanes with winds at 74 mph or more, including three to six major hurricanes during the season, NOAA scientists said.
Even with a forecast of up to 25 named storms, meteorologists still do not expect a season as active as the one in 2005, which had 28 named storms.
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